Winter is Coming

Just kidding. It’s here.

The weather is changing, and we’ve been laying low. Gone are the days of endless bike rides and picnics. And for now, I am fine with that. These are the days of chess and reading, apple cider and muffins, meatloaf and red wine. I quickly moved onto food stuff there.

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The boys and I have been watching the 1955 movie “Sissi” with Romy Schneider. I thought they would get bored pretty much right away, but instead, they are captivated. The romance and love and humor is not lost on them. Last night, on the couch, Julian said, “Mama, ich bin so verliebt in dich.” Sissi is working. If you’re not German or Austrian, you probably don’t know what I’m talking about. Moving on. (Also: naps.)

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On Friday we had the annual St. Martin lantern walk with Arthur’s pre-school. They changed location last minute, so instead of walking along the gorgeous Brooklyn Heights Promenade, we found ourselves stumbling through a pitch black Prospect Park. Winter had suddenly arrived, and everyone was freezing. We took the boys out for pizza promptly thereafter. I mean, look at these faces.

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On Saturday night we drove to Asbury Park, NJ and spent the night celebrating my brother-in-law’s birthday at this incredible pinball arcade. It was fantastic!

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Last weekend the boys rode their own bikes all the way to Red Hood. It was a big deal! We had lunch at Brooklyn Crab, and then they rode back. It was getting late, and cold, and all in all they rode a good 5 miles. I was so impressed! Jeff’s bike looks so empty without those extra 90 pounds on the back.

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We’re trying to settle into more indoor time – which sometimes leads to endless bickering between the boys. But also to sweet moments, laziness, lots of reading, and dancing in the kitchen.

Last night Julian and I danced to Bruce Springsteen’s “The Wish” in our kitchen, which is very apropos if you know the song. He held my hand just the right way and twirled me around, even though I had to bend down a lot. I hope he’ll want to dance with me for many years to come. (Tomorrow night Jeff and I will be seeing Bruce on Broadway. I’m soooo excited!)

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Weekend Vibes

This weekend felt like we were back in our old, comfortable, enjoyable groove. We had a good mix of downtime: playing legos, doing artwork, reading, school projects. The weather has been just perfect, and as anyone who’s ever experienced a NYC winter would agree, I think we all appreciate these gorgeous, sunny early fall days.

On Saturday we got on the bikes and headed to Central Park. It was a beautiful ride. We had lunch at the Ballfield Cafe. (I tried to take a panorama picture and caught Julian eating a ghost dog…)

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The we laid low on Sheeps Meadow.

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Uncle Brian met us, and we played soccer and ate ice cream.

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That night Jeff and I went on a dinner date here in our neighborhood.

Sunday we started out with coffee and waffles. Then I went to Trader Joe’s – something that prior to working again I would have never attempted on the weekend. But now that we have a new normal, it’s actually not so bad. I felt very accomplished afterwards, and my bike helped carry home my load.

Then we headed out for a pizza lunch at Fornino’s at Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park.

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The boys played at Pier 6 while Jeff and I bummed around…

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Then we went to Farmacy for ice cream. Espresso-infused milkshakes for the grown-ups.

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We rode our bikes around the neighborhoods and admired all the spooky houses. The boys are so excited for Halloween – including a little Halloween party they are planning for their best friends. I love their excitement; it makes everything more fun.

Full Disclosure

Do you ever feel like your feet are floating just a few inches above ground? Like you’re really trying to stand firmly, securely, but nonetheless you’re kind of up there, out there?

That’s how I feel right now. The news. Las Vegas. Our…”president”…(I still can’t say it) in Puerto Rico tossing paper towels to hurricane survivors.

Then today, after I’d picked up the boys from school, a young person, 20 years old, had jumped in front of a train. We just arrived at the train station in time to see everyone being ushered out. Dozens of emergency vehicles on site, and the smell. I’m not sure what it was. Burned rubber? The smell of emergency brakes? Random people were telling me what had happened, and I just said, “Please stop talking about it” while gesturing towards my young kids. Of course it was too late. They’d heard.

We took the bus home. And we talked about how the firefighters arrived to rescue the person from the tracks. Unfortunately we could relate to it on a much lighter level, as Arthur’s scooter had rolled onto the tracks just two weeks prior. It was a huge deal, a huge lesson learned, many tears, and lots of sweat. Arthur was fine, the trains were fine, and – after an hour of waiting for someone to retrieve it – even the scooter was fine.

But what I know, and what my kids don’t, is that some young kid couldn’t bear it anymore and jumped onto the tracks today. And some poor train driver’s life will be forever changed because of it.

I just cant’t shake it. It was too close, too real. Sometimes it just all seems like too much.

But I have my two boys. Two boys I’d promised to take to the park to play soccer this afternoon. So after school, we played. They were both sporting their new Manuel Neuer jerseys that they’d saved their money for for months, and they were so proud. Another (older) boy joined the game, and it was fun.

Also, I’ve really been struggling with making sure to get Arthur’s needs met. With work, school, after school activities, and all that, I still have to fit in three weekly therapy sessions, which is soon to be four. He qualified for occupational therapy earlier this year, and while I thought/hoped he would outgrow his needs and delays, it’s really apparent that he needs a little more extra help. I’m so grateful for the network we have here, but I am also a bit upset when seeing that time with my children is just slipping away. The Fridays I don’t work are special to me. I spend my day with Arthur, doing a week’s worth of laundry, cuddling, playing games, eating croissants. Now the bulk of our day will be spent going to therapy appointments. I will just bite my lip and make it fun. If I can package it as a playdate of sorts, I consider it a win.

Speaking of playdates, Arthur has finally found a friend. He’s come a long way, and my heart bursts when I see him talking to kids on the playground. So happy. And yes, my kids are dressed in soccer jerseys 80% of the time. Germany all the way, baby.

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This weekend we drove 15 hours total, back and forth to a wedding in Pennsylvania, which was a big pain. But we managed to see some dear friends along the way, and it was an opportunity to see family and dress snazzy. I mean…right?

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Also, we danced our way into oblivion at the reception. My brother-in-law just sent me this photo with the caption “I guess he loves you.” And so it is.

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And here are my boys from this morning, hugging good-bye, as they do every morning.

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With that I have to remind myself that while all is not right in the world, and in fact a lot is very, very wrong in the world, there are some things in our worlds that are right and good and pure, and to those things we must cling. (While making sure we change as much of the rest of our world as we can. For the better.)

Coney to the Rescue

After two weeks of being back at work part-time, I have come to the following conclusions:

  • It’s easier to stay at home full time.
  • It’s easier to work full time (this is partly an assumption and partly based on feedback from my full-time working friends).

I really enjoy my new job. It’s fun to get back into the swing of things. I was concerned that over 6+ years of doing mom things, the part of my brain I’d use at work had gone to sleep. Forever, perhaps? But no. I’m wide awake! And I like being around other adults and talking about things that don’t involve my kids.

I don’t love spending 1 1/2 hours every day commuting back and forth, although it gives me time to read – which is always welcome.

When I’m not on the subway, I’m constantly rushing. Rushing to school drop-off, to the subway, to work, to school pick-up, and then I want to go to sleep.

The thing I’m struggling with the most as I’m adjusting to my new life and routines is the fact that I’m tired. Not just physically tired, but also just plain exhausted. My brain is tired. I’m lacking the patience and drive to do fun things with my kids. And that’s sort of a bummer for me because I love nothing more than doing fun things with my kids. It makes me really sad. I think I also just miss summer and the endless opportunities to have adventures.

On Thursday night I sat on the couch and cried. I was too tired to eat dinner, too tired to watch stupid TV, too tired to read. So I went to bed at 9pm. Yesterday (I don’t work Fridays) was spent with the kids, at speech therapy, doing laundry and house stuff, and at a kid birthday party.

Today we had no plans, and no Papa. Jeff had to work (bummer), so when I got up I decided the kids and I needed a day of fun. So we went to our favorite place: Coney Island!

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I needed a day like today. Watching the boys bounce from ride to ride and be so happy and carefree put my heart in its right place.

Back to … WORK

On Monday I went back to work.

It was my first time heading off to work in more than 6 years; my first day of work as a mother – outside the home, that is. My last day of work was the day my water broke with Julian; he was born the next day, and I never looked back.

The 6 years at home with the boys were wonderful. Sure, sometimes our days were long, I was tired, kids were cranky and sick, but you know how memory works. It helps you choose to remember the great times. And there were many. I feel so fortunate that I had this time with them, that we were able to pull this off. I’ll cherish these years forever.

This job opportunity sort of fell into my lap, and I would have been an idiot not seize the moment. I wasn’t actively looking (yet!), but it was a perfect opportunity. A German company, colleagues from all over the globe, part-time hours. I’m doing admin and PR. And I can still pick up the boys from school. For them nothing changes. Except now they ask me at pick-up, “Mama, how was work?”

The first week is in the books now. I don’t work Fridays, since that’s the day Arthur doesn’t attend pre-school.

What has changed? Jeff and I get up earlier. I put on something other than sweatpants. That part is kind of fun!

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And I make three lunches. Mine look unspectacular compared to the boys, but it’s nice to eat with my colleagues. We all sit down together at a big table to eat, and afterwards the table converts into a ping pong table! How fun is that?!

I’m happy. Monday was great. After work we went to see Roger Waters with some friends. What a fantastic show!!

Tuesday was stressful. I guess the adrenaline had worn off; after work I had to run to make it to pick-up on time. Then Arthur and I had two hours to kill while Julian played after school soccer. Our coffee date was lovely; playground was next, and then we roamed the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. At the end of which I was exhausted.

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When I picked Julian up from school I noticed that he had lost his first tooth! Which is great news because * it happened! * Yay! and terrible, devastating news because he hadn’t noticed at all and of course the tooth was gone. Julian broke down in tears. His friends assured him that the tooth fairy still visits even if the tooth is lost, and eventually he lightened up.

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The tooth fairy lived up to her reputation and left Julian his first ever comic book: Scooby-Doo! Team Up! Also some cash, because apparently that’s always a winner. Julian loved the book so much. He read every waking minute he was not in school until the book was finished.

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Wednesday night Arthur started getting sick. He had a fever, snotty nose, and a cough that for him always leads to wheezing. He was so sad. We were up for a while with him in the night, and I decided we wouldn’t send him to school the next day. Which is totally not a problem when you have a stay-at-home parent but kind of problematic when you don’t. “Luckily” Jeff has been working 15 hour days and thought it’d be ok if he stayed home with Arthur until I got back from work in the early afternoon. It worked out, and I feel like we managed our first trial just fine. Also helpful: Julian is now able to take the bus to school! It doesn’t make sense for us on any day other than Friday (when Arthur doesn’t go to school), because we still need to drop off Arthur a couple of blocks from Julian’s school anyway. But today (and tomorrow) Julian was a school bus kid. He was pumped!

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So week one is done. I’m excited for this new chapter in our lives. The biggest moment for me was on Monday, when I left work, stepped outside and thought, “Wow. I haven’t thought about my children in 5 hours.” That is something that I can genuinely say has never happened before. Even with them in school, I’d still go about my day with them in mind. Errands, house work, everything was centered around my family. Having some time every day where that is not the case is probably good. At least this week I felt like I missed the kids more, even though I didn’t actually spend any more time away from them than in the weeks when I didn’t go to work.

Onward!

Back-to-School Feels

The boys are back in school. And I am, well, a bit sad.

In previous summers I think I kind of anticipated this day. By the end, the boys were getting to me, and I was ready. But not this year.

This summer was my favorite summer ever. I loved our trips to the Catskills, California, and the Poconos. I loved hanging out with the boys. They are so fun, so clever, so enjoyable. Sure, they have their moments, but overall they are people whose company I enjoy.

There were good times with friends; date nights with my husband. Arthur learned how to ride his bike; Julian plowed through the Wimpy Kid books. We picked up bagels and lox and ate them at our favorite playground near the Promenade, played on the beach, jumped in the pool and went on rides in Coney Island. We read books, napped, watched TV, watched people from our stoop. I went running. On the last day of summer break, Julian joined me for a run over the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges. It was my most favorite run ever. Not only did he pump his little legs fast enough to help me keep a good pace, I also loved chatting with him and just having him around. Afterwards, we brought home donuts for breakfast.

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But of course as all summers tend to do, this one ended. The kids returned to school. Julian was very excited; no nerves at all. He had his first day on Tuesday, which began with traditional photos on our stoop and then a lovely welcome ceremony at the school. The kid was back in his element. Also, look at these giant feet.

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Arthur had his first day on Thursday. He seemed a bit more reserved, but once he entered his school building, he was off and basically forgot to say good-bye. For shock effect, he requested a short hair do the day before. I cried. But he was happy, and I totally love it, too. He now looks like a 15 year old.

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Per our tradition, we celebrated the first day of school with donuts.

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Both boys had spectacular first days. Julian is happy to be with his friends again, and he likes his new teachers. Arthur was giddy and bouncy and told me about all the details of his day. I could tell he was so happy.

Here’s to a new season in our lives. I can’t quite put my finger on why I’m feeling so sentimental right now. I just do. The boys are growing up so fast. Too fast. But it’s also exciting. It’s fun to watch them grow, to see their relationship deepen, their interests develop, their personalities shine. I just love these creatures so much.

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And today, as if to reassure me that my boys still had some baby left in them, this happened. We’ll be ok.

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Life Stuff

This summer is fleeting. No summer has ever felt so fast, so short. I’m not ready for the boys to go back to school!

We’ve been enjoying a good mix of fun, busy days and lazy days riding bikes around the neighborhood and hanging out at the playground. The boys have been playing with their friends a bit, and of course Julian is busy reading. He’s finished the first two books of the Wimpy kid series and is now on his third. He’s also still keeping his journal, every night. Sometimes I catch myself thinking about a day 30 years from now when I find his write-ups of our summer and our life together, and I smile.

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Last week we hit the beach with our friends. Beach days are my favorite.

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This week we went to Central Park. We had lunch at the Ballfield Cafe, where we were happy to see the waitress we met the last time we were there, a couple of months ago. She also remembered us and immediately produced a little drawing Arthur had done for her from her wallet. I love little reminders like this in our everyday life. Reminders that there are good people everywhere, that we are connected even though it doesn’t always feel like it. Look at these faces. There is good in the world.

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There’s been plenty of ice cream and bike riding. I just can’t say no to ice cream.

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We’ve hung out with friends, BBQed, eaten about a hundred peaches, and played plenty of Legos. I’ve been reading a lot. The boys are besties and spend most of their time together Ghostbusting, Ninja-ing and whatnot.

I’m sentimental for many reasons. The boys are growing up. This beautiful summer is flying by. This season in my life is so good. I wish I could bottle up some of these moments for darker seasons – or, you know, winter.

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California Love

Here is my next vacation report. Because it’s summer, and that is what we do.

When I was 19, I spent one year in Minnesota as an au pair. I helped take care of three little ones, Stone (then 6), Kamron (then 2), and a baby girl, Roxonna.

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Fast forward to now: 18 years later. You do the math.

We’ve always been close, and I have visited this wonderful family both in Minnesota and in the Bay Area near San Francisco, where they live now, countless times. However, since the kids it’s become a bit less frequent. The last time we went to see them was 5 years ago when Julian was a baby (and he knocked out a tooth when we visited Twin Peaks).

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Julian, Arthur and I spent a wonderful week with these special people. From the moment I saw them again, it was just like coming home. It is every time. They embraced my children, loved them, spoiled them. It was so delightful and memorable and special in every way. Here is Arthur sleeping in a blanket that I remember wrapping around Roxonna when she was a baby.

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The majority of our time there was spent in the pool. The boys loved every second of it, and so did I.

The rest of the time was spent eating. Every night was a feast, and the boys quickly adapted to their new schedule of eating dinner at 10pm, a swim afterwards, and snoozing next to mama until late morning the next day. It’s the Iranian way (I think?).

I was spoiled with some incredible meals…

..and even better company.

Other highlights included a trip to Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco…

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…including a “fake” trolley ride. (The lines were just too long.)

Also, a trip to Half Moon Bay…

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…and a trip with all the kids (using that term loosely here since most of them are in their 20s and 30s) including cousins and older siblings to Golden Gate Park…

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Lots of hiking for these boys! This park is 20% bigger than Central Park, so needless to say we didn’t see it all. But the boys got to play at a playground, ride a carousel, hike up a mountain, and see some buffalo. Also, Arthur was carried a good bit. He was lucky to have so many willing helpers.

What a week this was! I got to see most of the extended family, people I’ve known and loved for years, and even though we don’t see each other often, it’s just like nothing has changed. It feels really good. And now my kids are part of the pack!

The trip home was pretty horrendous. Arthur got car sick as we pulled into the airport and threw up all over himself, the borrowed car seat, and Amir’s baby – the Maserati. I felt awful for him, and for our friends who had to ride home with that stinky car seat. I stripped Arthur and quickly grabbed some pajamas out of the suitcase before checking it.  I washed him off in the airport bathroom, and he was good as new. The flight was painful. Both boys slept, but only because 1. Julian is a saint and literally let Arthur kick him in the face and put his legs all over him and 2. because I am a saint and I let Arthur roll around for hours while accommodating his sleepy body with mine. It will not be repeated.

Now we’re home. We all took a two hour nap together and felt somewhat rejuvenated, but also still tired enough to complain pretty much all day. We miss our friends already – but are also so excited to see Jeff tonight! We missed him all week, and there is just something that feels perfectly right about being back home.

Beach, Beach, more Beach!

What a weekend! Jeff and I both agreed this morning that we needed an extra day to relax from all the fun we had. But alas, it’s Monday and back to the grind.

On Saturday morning we got on our bikes right away and headed to our favorite place: Coney Island! We made it to the ocean in an hour and fifteen minutes – not too bad for two middle aged folks riding two heavy bikes loaded with everything needed for a beach day. Oh, and two kids.

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We hung out on the beach for a few hours, ate watermelon, played in the water, and dug in the sand. The boys couldn’t care less that this isn’t the loveliest of beaches; they just have fun. And so did we.

Then we got hungry and needed hot dogs immediately. They were delicious.

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The rest of the afternoon was our typical Coney Island fun: Wonder Wheel, rides, ice cream.

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Then we rode back towards home. Right around Park Slope our legs were getting tired, so we decided to stop for dinner. We stumbled upon this lovely place, sat outside, and filled our bellies with meats & cheeses, pasta, and mussels. Arthur ate all my seafood, and I stole bites of his pasta. We were so happy and full – and very tired. We rode home as the sun was setting, showered, and fell into bed.

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On Sunday we decided we hadn’t had enough of the beach, so we headed to Rockaway. We wanted to try the new NYC Ferry, and so we rode the bikes to the Wall Street stop and took the ferry over. It was pretty smooth, but only because we got in line early. Many people who arrived after us had to wait for the next boat, which only comes every hour.

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We rode the bikes around Rockaway for a bit and then found us a nice spot on the beach. We stayed there all day, played in the waves, ate sandwiches, chips, watermelon. Beach life is simply the best. We all took naps, too. Delightful.

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Before we headed home we wanted to grab a quick dinner and randomly found this very strange place that has fast food and shakes on the menu – and an assortment of old toys in the yard.

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Hot dogs and shakes for life.

Then we made a mistake and rode our bikes around the boardwalk for a bit. It was so lovely out. Bands were playing, happy people everywhere. Except: When we arrived at the ferry dock, there were so many people in line already, and the ferries were so backed up that we had to wait for more than an hour. So that was fun. (Next time we’ll take the train again. The NYC Ferries are fun in theory, but so overcrowded it sucks the joy and convenience right out of it.)

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We killed time on the boat by drinking a beer, making silly hairdos, and playing games.

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We arrived home at 10pm. The kids were exhausted, although honestly not as much as we were. Today we all slept a little later, and even though I’m sure we’re all a bit tired still, we have made a bunch of unforgettable memories this weekend.

Easy Living

Something amazing has been happening lately. It’s something that I think I remember from the past, something that feels vaguely familiar, something I wasn’t expecting, but something I’m totally excited to welcome back: let’s call it “adult life.”

You know, going out with friends, dates, independence. All of this has seemed like a bit of a foreign concept occasionally throughout the years, but I have a firm notion that they are here to stay now.

There have been a bunch of small and big changes lately that are showing me that the kids are growing up. I mean, I knew that already, but when your kids are small, it’s often difficult to see the light simply because you are always tired.

Julian asked about an allowance recently, so we came up with a chore system, and it’s been wonderful. Each day the boys get a few “chores” that are always the same. This includes: getting dressed before they come out of their room at 7am, making their beds, putting their clothes away at night, brushing their teeth. And then each day I’ll include one or two additional chores, like emptying the dishwasher, cleaning/wiping the sink, dusting, sorting socks on laundry day, etc. Julian is obsessed with this new concept. He does all his chores, never complains, and always consults his “chart” to see what’s next. It’s just right up his ally. Arthur does most of his chores happily; he’s just not as excited – which is fine. It’s mostly for Julian, but we couldn’t give him an allowance and not one to Arthur. So $3 per week it is. The first two weeks have already been invested in an online order for fake Lego stuff sent from China – because that is how we roll. The other benefit of this whole thing is that I don’t have to sort socks.

In general, the kids are in an easy phase. Yes, there is still plenty to complain about (Mostly: why does my toilet constantly smell like pee no matter how much I scrub it?! Answer: boys.), but let’s not dwell on the negative. The boys are becoming very independent. Arthur plays endlessly with his lego people (Star Wars, of course), and his imagination is just incredible. Julian draws detailed road maps almost every day. He studies the roads and markings during our bike rides and then tries to recreate his favorites at home. He writes and reads, is helpful, sweet, caring. Arthur lets us sleep through the night (Yes, I know, he’s four and that should be a given, but believe me, it is not). Also, showers. And this one might seem silly, but I think it will revolutionize our summer. My children have finally accepted showers as an alternative to baths (that always take forever and somehow water always ends up on the floor – looking at you, Arthur). They shower on their own, put their pajamas on by themselves, and really, what are you needed for, Mom Lady?

Four and six are really enjoyable ages so far.

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Another thing that has sort of just “happened” is a renewed desire to take care of myself. I’ve been reading voraciously again – something I have always loved, but haven’t always had time/energy to do when my babies were, well, babies. 

Also, I have started working out again and even picked up running. The last time I tried that was after I had Arthur, and it was challenging to work up to being able to run 5k. Now I feel much stronger, and this week I ran three times. My favorite run was one morning at 6am over the Brooklyn Bridge, through Chinatown, and back home over the Manhattan Bridge. I ran almost 7km that day – and I felt pumped. What a feeling it is to run through this city that I love so much, while most people are still in bed, and the sun has just risen. Magical.

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Everything just seems to be in a good place right now (I hope I’m not jinxing things). I’m in love with my husband, I love hanging out with friends, and my kids are actually enjoyable companions.

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So to all the tired folks with young kids: I know people always say it gets easier. That’s because it truly does. You’ll be able to leave the house again without a screaming kid in tow, you’ll be able to grocery shop in peace even though you have your sidekicks with you, and occasionally they will even carry said groceries home for you. You’ll be able to sleep again and do all the things you used to love.

Oh, and somehow I manage to finish my coffee most mornings. Something that you only appreciate if you’ve been drinking hurried sips of lukewarm coffee for years.